The Former Houston Wood
Preserving Works Site

Union Pacific is committed to the safety and sustainability of Fifth Ward.

Since acquiring the former Houston Wood Preserving Works (HWPW) site in 1997, Union Pacific remains dedicated to maintaining cleanup and site remediation of the site and surrounding Fifth Ward areas. We’re focused on the safety of the Fifth Ward community and are committed to finishing the job.

We created this website to share key facts and updates related to our ongoing site work. Here, you can access scientific studies and learn more about the site’s history and our plans for additional monitoring and remediation work. Transparency and open communication mean a lot to us at Union Pacific – everyone deserves access to complete and accurate information.

Our actions will be thorough, transparent and effective. We’re focused on getting the job done and doing it right.

Richard Zientek, Senior Director — Public Affairs for Union Pacific
Houston isn’t just where I work, it’s also the place I call home. As someone who lives and works in the Houston region, I understand the importance of being open and transparent regarding our operations and look forward to continuing this important work on behalf of our community.
Toni Harrison – Union Pacific Communications Representative
Union Pacific has made a commitment to finishing the job, and it’s important to me both as a communicator and Fifth Ward native to help make sure that happens. I’m here to bridge connections between the company and the community to ensure we have a clear path forward toward safety and sustainability.

We’ve made progress in Fifth Ward, and we’ll continue to focus on the safety of the community.

Since inheriting the former HWPW site in a 1997 merger, we’ve prioritized remediation and have made measurable progress with on-site cleanup. We’re committed to finishing the job. Here’s a look at some of the environmental work at the site that’s been conducted to safeguard the community:

Glossary of Terms

creosote commonly-used chemical preservative of the time created from wood or coal tar
vapor intrusion a process where chemicals underground migrate to indoor air
groundwater water found underground between soil, sand, and rocks
barrier caps protective layers placed over contaminated soil to prevent harmful substances from spreading

Soil Cleanup

Over 11,000 tons of creosote-impacted soil was consolidated and sealed onsite with an engineered cap to prevent community exposure and harm.

Groundwater Sampling

Widespread sampling and evaluation of 120 water sources beneath the Greater Fifth Ward area to find possible sources of pollution.

Air Quality Monitoring and Testing

Ongoing air quality monitoring, vapor intrusion investigations and analysis was performed to ensure residents are protected from harmful exposure pathways.

Continued Cleanup, Testing and Monitoring

Continued groundwater testing, creosote removal, and inspections of the remediated areas to ensure protective barrier caps remain in place.

With next steps in place for ongoing remediation, we’re focused on moving Fifth Ward forward.

Union Pacific is focused on doing our part to safeguard the Fifth Ward community. Since inheriting the former HWPW site 13 years after its closure, we’ve been diligent with cleanup in accordance with federal and state regulations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). We will remain firm in our efforts to prevent exposure to environmental hazards. Studies have not revealed a significant pathway for the contamination to reach any residents living near the former HWPW site, and drinking water has been deemed safe by the City of Houston and EPA.


Union Pacific is collaborating with EPA, City of Houston, Harris County, and Bayou City Initiative on the next stage of remediation and will perform thorough sampling and comprehensive testing strategies in the Fifth Ward community surrounding the former HWPW site.


The Houston Health Department’s (HHD) September 2022 report emphasized the need for more soil testing in the area to provide complete information and data. Union Pacific proactively called the U.S. EPA to join our efforts to assure the community every next step will be timely, transparent, thorough, and effective.


Union Pacific, in line with the HHD report, is focused on additional testing to accurately determine the true extent and source of contamination in the neighborhood. Complete testing is the only way to accurately determine the extent and source of contamination in the neighborhood, and Union Pacific will pay for all sampling and testing.


Union Pacific recognizes the community’s concerns and fear, and assures remediation, neighborhood sampling, and testing, and any actions to follow will be timely, transparent, and effective. We care about the Fifth Ward community, and we will be accountable to what we’re responsible for.


Community is our shared environment, and Union Pacific aims to foster its safety and sustainability. We pledge active collaboration, transparent communication and timely engagement throughout the process.

The Houston skyline and an example of a neighborhood map.
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